King Nadal continues Paris reign with record-equalling 20th Slam
PARIS (Reuters) - Spaniard Rafael Nadal inflicted one of the most humiliating defeats on big rival Novak Djokovic in the final of the French Open on Sunday, beating the world number 1 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 to a record of 20 to achieve Slam men's singles title.
Tennis fans would have loved the prospect of yet another epic clash in one of the sport's greatest rivalries, but it turned out to be one of the most one-sided Grand Slam finals of the Open era under the closed umbrella of Court Philippe Chatrier.
The roof, which made its debut at this year's Grand Slam, was closed shortly before the start of the game, leaving fans and experts on social media in a frenzy where the player would benefit from the conditions in the hall.
Most thought it would favor the Serbian game against 34-year-old Nadal, who fought for the 13th title on the red clay courts at Roland Garros.
But Nadal has adapted brilliantly as he has responded every fortnight to the new brand of balls and the much colder and wetter conditions at this year's event, which started in late September rather than their usual slot of May due to the COVID-19 pandemic until June had.
The stakes were high for both players in their ninth meeting in a Grand Slam final - they were previously a 4-4 draw - with the added incentive to claim another important trophy in the fight to become the "Greatest Ever" of the Apply to men.
Nadal has now left Roger Federer's 20 majors behind three times with Djokovic, the last active player to beat the Spaniard at Roland Garros.
"To win here means everything. I'm not thinking of 20th and equal Roger in this large number, today is just a Roland Garros win and that means everything to me," said the world number two.
"This love story that I have with this city and this dish is unforgettable."
CLOSE THE DOOR
Before the game, Djokovic had said Roland Garros was Nadal's home and the Spaniard did not leave the door open for the Serbian to celebrate a comeback in the game.
The 33-year-old Djokovic, who had won five Grand Slam finals in a row since his defeat by Stan Wawrinka at the Australian Open 2016, still leads Nadal 29:27 in career meetings, but the scar of defeat on Sunday will go deep.
The drop shots on the slow clay courts served Djokovic well in previous rounds, and he used a lot of them in his opening game on Sunday, but Nadal shut down most of them and blunted the Serb's gun and game plan.
Djokovic struggled on his first serve and was unable to come up with a plan B as Nadal continued to be the attacker while making only two casual mistakes in the opening set to give his opponent a rare bagel in the opening set.
Nadal showed exemplary athleticism and reporting on the pitch to cope with Djokovic's crunchy ground strokes as the confused Serb watched and quickly ran out of ideas on how to win important points.
In the second set, the intensity of Nadal didn't let up as he continued to generate low returns to keep his opponent on the back of the baseline.
Djokovic hit the board at the beginning of the second set after saving three breakpoints, but Nadal retained his iron grip by breaking the Serbian’s next two service games and taking the 2-0 lead.
In a high-quality third set, Djokovic interrupted Nadal's serve for the first time 3: 3, but lost the service in the 11th game due to a double error before the left-hander scored his 100th win at Roland Garros with an ace.
"Today you showed why you are the king of clay. Today was a tough game, I was outdone by a better player today," said Djokovic after losing his third final to Nadal at Roland Garros.
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Christian Radnedge and Ed Osmond)
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